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Manager of the MI Organics transfer station at Townsend, Kim Madden, is pictured with one of three saddles that date back to WWI. Image: Fran Dowsett

Three saddles and a light horseman

Geoff Helisma |

Several weeks ago a man took three old saddles to the MI Organics waste transfer station at Townsend – soon enough the saddles were donated to Guyra Light Horse Association.

As it turned out, the saddles dated back to World War One.

“We’re not sure who the gentleman was,” said MI Organics employee Lee Powell, who was acting manager when the saddles turned up.

“He’s a bit of a mystery person; he just dropped them off and [fellow employee] Steve thought they looked a bit old and that we’d better put them aside.

“A few people came through and took photos and one was sent to Wayne [Mills at the Guyra Light Horse Association), and we don’t know who sent it.”

Lee said she rang the “Australian War Memorial in Canberra and they were very happy for the saddles go to Guyra”.

“We also contacted the local historical society in Maclean and they, too, were very happy,” she said.

Mr Mills was out in the paddock when the Independent rang, however, he returned the call within 15 minutes.

“They’re not original Australian saddles,” he said, “they’re Indian; they had an army on horseback, too [that served in the Middle East].”

“They’re the same design as the Australian saddle, they’re very similar.

“These have come into Australia at some stage as Indian saddles.

“But there’s nothing wrong with that, we’ve got a few here for our troop, and they’re in reasonable order.

“My idea would be that they were brought here some time down the track and used for mustering in the bush.

“They have no real monetary value; while light horse saddles are rare, they are still available – most are worth $400 or $500.

“These are worth about the same amount.

“There’s no stigma attached to them; when I went over to Beersheeba for the hundred year ride, I took and Indian saddle I got for two fat lambs.”

What next for the saddles?

“I’m not sure just how much of the original saddles we can save – I’ve got to get oil back in to them and see if they crack,” Mr Mills said.

Sadly, the Light Horse regiments’ horses could not be shipped back to Australia; they were either shot or transferred to Indian cavalry units.

Folk singer Eric Bogle AM, who emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1969, at the age of 25, dedicated a song to the horses, based on Light Horseman Elijah Conn, who had a horse in Palestine.

Here’s the last verse: For the orders came, no horses to return / We were to abandon them, to be slaves / After all we’d shared and all that we’d been through / A Nation’s gratitude was a dusty grave.

For we can’t leave them to the people here, we’d rather see them dead / So each man will take his best mate’s horse with a bullet through the head / For the people here are like their land, wild and cruel and hard / So Banjo … here’s your reward.